The deadly Section 30!

There appears to be a general assumption that (a) Nicola Sturgeon will renew the request for a Section 30 order with a view to holding a new independence referendum; and (b) that Theresa May will refuse. If I have learned anything in more than half a century observing politics – and people – it is that one should beware of easy assumptions.

I have made my views on asking for a Section 30 order plain on many occasions. It would be a mistake. I take the view that the British Prime Minister cannot have a veto over the right of self-determination that is vested wholly in the people of Scotland and guaranteed by the Charter of the United Nations. To ask Westminster’s permission for a referendum is to acknowledge and affirm their authority to refuse that permission and, thereby, effectively veto the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination.

One response to this is that the precedent has been set by Alex Salmond going down the Section 30 route for the 2014 referendum. I reject this argument. I maintain that Salmond had options and chose the Section 30 route only because that was judged to be the best option in the circumstances which prevailed at the time. I see no reason why this should have the effect of precluding all other options for all time.

Those circumstances no longer prevail. The entire political environment has altered dramatically since 2014. To choose the Section 30 route even in such drastically different circumstances could be argued to imply that it is the appropriate or sole option in any circumstances. Asking for a Section 30 order again really would set a precedent. Granting the British political elite a veto over Scotland’s right of self-determination once can be seen as politically astute. Doing so twice would surely be political folly.

The argument goes that Theresa May will refuse the Section 30 order and Nicola Sturgeon can then claim that she tried that route and has now been forced by British intransigence to go another way. That’s really not a good look. Doing something only because you’ve been forced into it doesn’t give the impression of being in control. Going that other route should be a matter of choice. It should be seen as decisive action, rather than compelled reaction.

But what if Theresa May doesn’t refuse that Section 30 order? Suggesting this possibility usually elicits a response querying why she would allow it. What possible reason could Theresa May have for granting a Section 30 order? I can think of one. It’s all about control of the process.

If Theresa May grants a Section 30 order this means that there must be a new agreement between the two governments establishing the ground rules for the referendum. By asking for the Section 30 order, Nicola Sturgeon would be accepting the need for such a negotiated agreement. Theresa May would then make demands that Nicola Sturgeon couldn’t possibly agree to – such as a qualified majority requirement or the exclusion from the franchise of 16/17-year olds. No agreement! No referendum!

Requesting a Section 30 order is a lose/lose scenario for Nicola Sturgeon. Either way, she ends up having to find another way forward having been made to look weak and having afforded the British political elite an authority to which they are not entitled. The First Minister must seize control of the process from the outset.


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Women against democracy!

There is a powerful and disturbing irony in the fact that, women having fought so hard for so long and at such great cost to secure the right to vote, it is now women who are leading the clamour to have this right curtailed or denied.

Ruth “Queen of the BritNats” Davidson long since established herself as the leading anti-democracy campaigner in Scotland with her shrill, demagogic demands that the Scottish people be denied the right to choose the constitutional status of their nation and the form of government which best suits their needs.

Now, Davidson’s boss – Theresa May – is proving equally strident in her insistence that people across the UK should not have the opportunity to make an informed choice about leaving the EU. Or, at least, a marginally better informed choice than they were presented with in 2016.

The anti-democratic nature of British Nationalism was strikingly revealed last week when disgraced MSP and total bollard, Annie Wells, responded on behalf of the British Conservative & Unionist Party in Scotland (BCUPS) to the launch of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on prisoner voting. In a Tweet seething with self-righteous rage, Wells boasted that “we [BCUPS] are the only party that oppose prisoners having the right to vote”.

I don’t know if this boast is true. What I do know is that Wells doesn’t much care about such niceties as truth and accuracy. But the remark is illuminating anyway. Note how Wells acknowledges that voting is a right. And how ready she is to deny that right with all the vehemence she has left over from supporting her boss’s anti-democratic campaign against a new independence referendum.

Set aside, for a moment, the fact that this relates to persons incarcerated for criminal acts. A right is a right – as Wells’s boss’s boss might put it. While talking of voting as a right, Wells treats it as a privilege. Something that is in the gift of established power; to be gracious granted or spitefully withheld according to the whim of those who wield that power.

In a true democracy, the right to vote is absolute and inalienable. It is a necessary and ineluctable function of citizenship or qualifying residency. Any working definition of democracy must start from the assumption that everybody has the right to vote. The right to vote is not granted and does not need to be claimed or won. It is as much part of the individual born into a truly democratic society as their skin.

From the default assumption that all persons own the right to vote, an argument must be made, under rules set out in the constitution, for withholding this right from defined groups or specified individuals. It is trivial to argue that the right to vote must be rendered functionally inoperative in the case of infants. Nonetheless, the argument must be made. Qualifying as a true democracy demands that the right to vote is in no circumstances withheld lightly.

It is less and less easy to argue that the right to vote should be withheld from individuals as they get older. Strong counter-arguments can be made in the case of persons aged twelve. There are no rational and persuasive arguments for withholding the right to vote from persons aged sixteen.

Once an individual has reached the constitutionally established age at which their right to vote ceases to be withheld, any argument for withholding that right must apply to the specific individual. Any blanket withholding of voting rights across a group is a breach of individual human rights and definitively undemocratic.

Annie Wells expresses pride in being part of a campaign to impose just such a blanket ban. Her attitude, and the attitude generally evinced by British Nationalists, is that voting is a privilege. More ominously, she espouses the principle of denying this ‘privilege’ to groups delineated, not by any human universal such as age, but by criteria determined by the state or its agencies. Groups such as that labelled ‘prisoners’.

Labels are cheap. I’m sure Annie Wells has an abundant supply of them. You might even find that you are already wearing one or more of them. Just such a discovery was made in the wake of the 2014 referendum by a group which the British establishment labelled ‘Scottish MPs’.

Annie Wells. Ruth Davidson. Theresa May. They shame the memory of such as Flora Drummond, Emily Wilding Davison and Emmeline Pankhurst.


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Scotland? What Scotland?

Theresa May has ignored Scotland throughout the whole Brexit process, and excluding The National in this way simply underlines how she is running scared of answering tough questions.

The stuff about Theresa May “running scared” of difficult questions makes for great political rhetoric. But, as I’m sure the First Minister is well aware, it doesn’t quite reflect the reality.

Theresa May is not afraid of tough questions, for two reasons. Firstly, as a professional politician, she is trained to deal with hard interrogation. And, as the British Prime Minister, she has a small army of advisers whose task it is to ensure she is thoroughly briefed and equipped with well-rehearsed responses for any question.

This, incidentally, is how she will deal with Jeremy Corbyn in the proposed TV .debate’. She will be armed with a sword of stock phrases and a shield of glittering generalities. Corbyn will have nothing but a water-pistol loaded with vacuous slogans and the Pac-A-Mac of his self-righteousness.

Then there’s the arrogance. I have not the slightest doubt that Theresa May considers herself an excellent orator and debater. Again, she has a small army of people around her whose jobs rely on assuring their charge of her shining brilliance after every performance – no matter how dire that performance may have been. May, like most senior British politicians, exists in a bubble of near-adulation that shields her from both criticism and reality. She is entirely oblivious to the ineptitude that is clearly apparent to detached observers. And almost entirely unaware of how widely she is detested.

This conceit of herself makes her unafraid. The protective phalanx of minders makes her self-assured.

The significant point in the above quote is right at the start. When Nicola Sturgeon says “Theresa May has ignored Scotland throughout the whole Brexit process”, she hints at what is actually behind decision to exclude The National from her press event. The British establishment has discovered the power of ignoring.

We exist in a world of media. We swim in a sea mediated messages. If something isn’t trending on Twitter or the subject of Facebook fury, it barely exists. If it doesn’t warrant a mention in the crowded 15-20 minute space of rolling news, then it isn’t happening. If it isn’t being talked about by the Andrews Marr and Neil, it just isn’t important.

The British establishment has deployed the ignoring strategy as one strand of its effort to diminish Scotland in the public consciousness. They denigrate our public services, delegitimise our democratic institutions and trivialise Scottish issues They aim to eradicate our distinctive political culture.. They seek to obliterate our national identity in a storm of unionjackery.

The National would seem an obvious target for this studied ignoring. May’s lackeys doubtless thought it in keeping with the ignoring agenda to exclude the paper which, almost uniquely, presents the news from a Scottish perspective. Very evidently, they got it wrong.


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Crazy talk

escher.pngThe language here is all wrong. Both Theresa May and the media are talking about her extending the transition period as if it was something she could simply choose to do. In fact, she would have to secure the agreement of the EU for any such extension. And it shouldn’t be assumed that such agreement would be forthcoming.

As is their wont, the British political elite behave with that vaunting sense of entitlement that others find so ugly and irksome. If it’s what they want or what suits them then, on that basis alone, it must be their due. And should they not be afforded, immediately and without question, that which they arrogantly assume to be their entitlement, petulant tantrums will ensue.

There is another problem with the language. Something which speaks, not to the British establishment’s sense of entitlement, but to the delusional stupidity of the British political elite. Note how May refers to an extension of the Brexit implementation period as a “solution” to the troublesome matter of Northern Ireland and the British state’s land border with the EU. One very obvious reason the EU might well refuse such an extension is that, of course, it solves nothing. All it does does is further postpone the moment when the British Government is forced to admit that it has no solution to offer. Because there is no solution!

Actually, that’s not quite true. There is a solution. Membership of the EU is the solution. As the British establishment is belatedly realising – having fallen into the trap of believing its own Europhobic propaganda – the EU has been the solution to a raft of issues over the past four or five decades. Not always a perfect solution. But a working solution. The Mad Brexiteers decided to throw away all of those solutions having given not so much as a moment’s thought to what would replace them.

Dragging out the Brexit process is neither a solution nor a path to a solution. To claim it as such is like insisting you can make three dimensional sense of a two dimensional Escher drawing if you just stare at it a bit longer. It is the claim of an idiot. It is the language of an imbecile.

It is the language of British politics.


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It depends

snp_conferenceLike most people, I suspect, I have totally given up on the entire Brexit shambles. And I’m increasingly perplexed as to why, in public at least, the First Minister persists in behaving as if there was some Brexit outcome that might have a significant bearing on the constitutional issue. Does she genuinely suppose that there might be a ‘deal’ which makes independence less necessary? Does she imagine there to be the remotest possibility of an outcome which makes it less urgent that we put an end to the Union?

What “detail” could the UK Government offer about “post-Brexit Britain” which might make it a less dire and depressing prospect? What reason is there to believe that October will bring any more clarity than has been provided to date? Has that been the trend so far? Has the Brexit process been characterised by increasing lucidity?

What might Theresa May say in October which could alter the fact that Scotland voted Remain by a substantial majority? What might she offer that could compensate for the lies, smears, insults, intimidation and empty promises by which a No vote was secured in 2014? How might she undo all the ways in which the British establishment has demonstrated its contempt for Scotland, its Parliament and its people?

What might happen between now and October which could rectify the asymmetry of power which means that Scotland’s interests can never be adequately represented within the UK? For more than three hundred years the Union has served as a device by which the people of Scotland are prevented from exercising the sovereignty which is theirs by right. Does Theresa May give the impression of being the individual who is going to change that situation in the course of a few weeks?

It now seems certain that Nicola Sturgeon has chosen not to seize the opportunity to hold a new referendum in September. It looks increasingly unlikely that it will even be this year. It appears that she has opted not to seize the initiative, but to listen instead to the siren voices around her urging that we constantly wait to see what the British government does next. Then wait some more to see what they do after that. Then put off doing anything until we see how that pans out. Then postpone a decision until…. And so it goes on.

It is a policy of self-perpetuating prevarication. Once an excuse has been found for inaction, that excuse then forms the basis for the next excuse. Before long, the burden shifts from those insisting on delay to those demanding action. When we stop asking how long we must wait for the new referendum and start asking why we shouldn’t wait even longer then the cause of independence is becalmed, if not sunk.

Nicola Sturgeon has spoken the words I dreaded to hear. When asked about plans for a second referendum she says only that ‘it depends’. What is troubling is that it appears to depend on all the wrong things. It depends on what the British government does, rather than what Scotland needs. The First Minister seems to be relying on the Brexit process creating the circumstances for a new referendum. She seems to have lost sight of the fact that those circumstances already exist. They have existed for a very long time. They are the reason her party was formed. They are the reason she’s where she is.


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